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Extended Definition of Charisma

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The Oxford Dictionary defines charisma as “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”. In my opinion, this definition excludes aspects that would qualify a person who has charisma. Charisma is generally linked to figures of authority or leadership figures that have a magnetic presence and an effect on others. Therefore, the definition must replace the clause “compelling attractiveness” with “commanding confidence”, add “or admiration” after “devotion”, and omit the word “can” and replace “inspire” to “inspires”. The phrase “compelling attractiveness” must be substituted for the phrase “commanding confidence” in the definition of charisma because it inaccurately describes a person who is charismatic. “Compelling attractiveness” conveys a positive connotation and does not express power or authority, traits associated with someone who is charismatic. For example, Adolf Hitler attracted his supporters through his certainty and lack of debate.

He connected with his audiences through his dominant presence and style of expressing his beliefs, convincing and almost hypnotizing them to believe in him due to his poise. On the other hand, a student who raises his or her in class to answer a question would not be considered charismatic. The student simply had the knowledge to answer the question with certainty, allowing the student to appear confident. The student is not charismatic because he or she did not display leadership or inspire others through his or her ability to answer the question without doubt. Replacing “compelling attractiveness” with “commanding confidence” in the Oxford definition of charisma would more accurately depict a person with charisma. In the definition of charisma, the word “devotion” strictly suggests that people become dedicated to those who are charismatic as opposed to simply admiring them, therefore needing the inclusion of “or admiration” after “devotion”. Charismatic figures have the ability to inspire others, without resulting in their loyalty.

For example, former United States President Bill Clinton used his power and influence for the betterment of others through charitable causes. While he has raised millions of dollars, undeniably proving admiration, people display their admiration through donating money to his charities, not becoming completely faithful to his causes. In contrast, the 900 followers of Jim Jones of the Jonestown Cult had complete devotion to him because they all followed his lead and committed suicide. This showed unblinding loyalty to Jim Jones as his charismatic personality was able to hypnotize his followers to do exactly as he said. Inspiration does not always lead to devotion, thus making it necessary to insert “or admiration” after “devotion”. Finally, the word “can” must be omitted from the definition and “inspire” must be replaced with “inspires”.

The word “can” implies charismatic figures are not always inspiring. People who have charisma are acknowledged specifically for their charisma and realizing a person is charismatic is noticing their ability to influence others. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplifies how charismatic figures are inspiring as he is recognized today as one of the most influential figures in history. His commanding presence and confidence undoubtedly had the ability to influence audiences as today we dedicate a day to him to recognize the effect he had. In contrast, Helen Keller was able to inspire people though just her actions and her accomplishments without holding the position of a leader. However, while a person who is inspirational may not have charisma, a person who has charisma is always inspirational. The definition must omit “can” and replace “inspire” with “inspires” in order to make the definition more specific.

The present definition of charisma requires adjustments to correctly express what it means to be charismatic. The current definition of charisma is “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”. The new definition should read, “Commanding confidence or charm that inspires devotion or admiration in others”. These modifications of the Oxford definition of charisma more precisely explain a person who has charisma. A charismatic person is a leader with a magnetic presence, which may not always have positive outcomes, and is recognized for their charisma through their ability to influence others. The new definition of charisma will elucidate the characteristics of a charismatic figure.

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